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health Archives | Chaplain | JM Faith at Work

It’s Five O’clock Somewhere

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Pastor Jim Melvin

Are you wasting away in Margaritaville?  Singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffet, known for his colorful Hawaian shirts, catchy lyrics and laid-back islands attitude could be nominated as the pandemic spokesperson.  Many of his song titles like “Wasting Away in Margarittaville,”  “It’s Five O’clock Somewhere,” “And Why don’t we get Drunk,” extol the use and abuse of alcohol.

Judging from celebrity posts on Facebook, and the posts of my friends, family, and coworkers, the covid-19 pandemic has us awash in alcohol as much as in virus particles.  People working from home report happy hour starting earlier and lasting longer.  I have a friend who runs a liquor store that offers drive-through pickup and he says that since March his sales have made every day seem like New Year’s Eve. Statistics show that alcohol sales have risen as much as 55% since the covid related lockdowns began.

As lighthearted as the attitudes toward pandemic drinking habits appear, there are some serious consequences to our changes in consumption lurking in the background.  The following are some of the negative consequences that can logically be expected to result from the current uptick in drinking:

 

  • A rise in general health problems including a suppressed immune response which increases the susceptibility to disease including covid 19.
  • Weight gain which also negatively impacts overall health.
  • An in increase in the incidence and severity of depression.
  • Relationship problems, child neglect and spousal abuse are more common.
  • Lowered inhibition and lack of judgement in social situations increase the likelihood of exposure to covid 19 infections.

Lest I be accused of being a party pooper or a wet blanket, let it be known that I generally counsel moderation in all things.  Even the Bible says in 1 Timothy 5:23, “No longer drink only water, but take a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.” In balance, however, Ephesians 5:18 says, “Do not be a drunkard, for that is debauchery.”  Medical science seems to support the biblical advice.  It has been shown that one drink per day may have some health benefits including reducing heart disease.  More conclusively, anything more than moderate consumption leads to all kinds of serious afflictions including cancer, multiple organ failure and heart disease.

Alcohol usage goes up during times of stress.  An increase of alcohol abuse was observed after the 9/11 terror attacks.  The isolation caused by the pandemic and the resulting lack of positive social connections makes us extremely vulnerable.  Working at home increases the temptation to drink during the workday.  So here are some practical suggestions of steps that you can take to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle in “Coronaville.”

  • Honestly evaluate your drinking habits. Widely accepted health guidelines recommend no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.  A drink is defined as 1 twelve oz. regular beer, 1 five oz. glass of wine, or 1.5 oz. 80 proof distilled spirits. These amounts are to be consumed over the course of the week and not saved for a weekend binge. Overall, 0 drinks per day is best.
  • Strictly limit the duration of your cocktail hour if you have one. One hour seems to be an appropriate length of time for most people.
  • Be extra aware of your drinking on weekends, holidays, and vacations.
  • Do not drink during the workday.
  • Substitute non-alcoholic drinks or drinks with lower alcohol content for cocktail hour or engage in some other kind of activity or social interaction. It may work for you to serve alcohol only at dinner time.
  • Couples and family members should positively and respectfully support one another in limiting alcohol consumption.
  • Talk openly with social acquaintances about your decision to responsibly consume alcohol.
  • Seek professional help if you or a loved one is being negatively impacted by their drinking.
  • Avoid bars and parties where alcohol will be consumed in excess. These situations are the main source of covid spread at this time.  It is your right to politely decline invitations to social events that you feel would put you at risk.
  • Pray for strength and serenity.

It’s five o’clock somewhere right now.  If I wanted to, I could find a good reason to pop a beer or pour myself a drink.  I choose not to.  I know that, like you, I am operating under a higher than normal level of stress.  As much as this pandemic time stinks and tries to drive us to drink, we can create our own silver linings by committing to staying healthy in body, mind and spirit. Today, for me, five o’clock sounds like a good time to go for a walk.  What are you going to do?  Let’s just not waste away in Margaritaville.

Let There Be Light

By | Blog

Pastor Jim Melvin

I have good news for you, my Vitamin D deprived friends; the days are getting longer. We’ve already gained over half an hour of daylight since the sun started coming home to the northern hemisphere on December 21st. The bad news is that it’s still almost two months until spring. We have the darkest time of the year, both physically and emotionally and perhaps spiritually to endure.

It’s no accident that the first thing God created was light. Light is associated with good and life. That’s why Jesus was called “the Light of the World”. It’s no coincidence that we celebrate Jesus’ birth during the darkest time of the year. At a time when we feel at our lowest, it gives us hope to hear that light will be returning to our lives.

There are some things that we can do to help us through this remaining period of light deprivation. One of the most important things is to realize that we are not alone if we feel down or lack energy during this period. Our bodies are chemically reacting to decreased light exposure including the production of Vitamin D which takes place in our skin with exposure to light. So have hope. This too shall pass. Your feelings are normal. The days are getting longer.

In the meantime, there are some simple steps that we can take to feel happier and more energetic right now. Here are a few:

1. Get as much light as you can, natural and artificial. You can buy special high intensity full spectrum lights at the pharmacy.
2. Get outside and breath in the fresh air even if it is cold.
3. Exercise frequently.
4. Take time to enjoy the sunrise even if you have to adjust the time you get up in the morning.
5. Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
6. See your doctor if you feel unusually depressed or your sleep patterns are seriously disrupted. Your doctor may prescribe anti-depressants on a temporary basis to help elevate your mood.
7. Get social. Find plenty opportunities to socialize with family and friends. Isolation worsens depression.

Those are a few physical things that may help you survive until spring, but don’t forget your spiritual life. Take time each day to pray and reflect on the light of God which dwells within your heart. Close you eyes and visualize a warm glow emanating from your heart. Remember that the promise of new life through Jesus Christ is yours.  And let there be light.

Working Man Blues

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Pastor Jim Melvin

Wish I was down on some blue bayou,
With a bamboo cane stuck in the sand.
But the road I’m on, don’t seem to go there
So I just dream, keep on bein’ the way I am.

Wish I enjoyed what makes my living,
Did what I do with a willin’ hand.
Some would run, ah, but that ain’t like me.
So I just dream and keep on bein’ the way I am.

“The Way I Am” by Merle Haggard

Who of us can’t relate to the feelings that Merle Haggard touches on in “The Way I Am”? Did you ever find yourself daydreaming on the job wishing that you were sitting on a beach drinking a Corona or up north making tracks in fresh snow on your Skidoo? Did you ever feel like the path that you’re taking through life will never get you to either of those places? So, you just dream and keep on bein’ the way you are.

I’ve always loved Merle Haggard’s songs and how he can put his finger on the struggles of everyday people. It probably comes from the fact that he grew up poor in the depression and spent some time in prison, including the infamous San Quentin, when he was young. He probably never did much manual labor himself because he made his living as a country singer after he turned his life around, not that being a musician isn’t hard work. But he could see how difficult life was for the hard-working men and women of America.

Many of Haggard’s songs express a sense of helplessness and a woeful acceptance of the way things are. None does this better than his song “Working Man Blues.” He sings, “I drink my beer in a tavern, sing a little bit of these working man blues. In this song, the working man is saddled by his responsibility to support nine kids and a wife. Despite his blues he vows to “keep his nose to the grindstone” and work as long as his “two hands are fit to use.”

It’s kind of tempting to put his songs on the jukebox in the tavern and wallow in our own working man (or woman) blues. Although a little self-pity feels good once in a while, it profits us more to stop crying in our beer and head down the path of our choosing.

Dreams can be put into two categories, passive or active. When Haggard dreams of sitting on a blue bayou with a cane fishing pole stuck in the sand, he is describing a passive dream. We call that a daydream. He has no intention of acting on this dream. He seems to imply that there is no way to get from where he is to that idyllic destination. He is resigned to the fact that his dream will remain just a figment of his imagination. He settles for the small pleasure that he gets from the act of dreaming. He’ll just drink his beer after work and sing the working man blues. Passive dreams are pessimistic. They feed on self-doubt.

Active dreams lead to action. Active dreams bring a vision of a better future toward which we want to move and toward which we can envision a path. Instead of resignation, these dreams lead to action. Instead of heading to the bar every night, when we commit to realizing our dreams, we spend at least some of our spare time drawing a roadmap for the future. That doesn’t mean there’ll be no time for enjoying life with our friends along the way. Active dreams are optimistic. They require and inspire confidence.

The good thing is, we get to choose the type of dreams we dream. We all are confronted with challenges and obstacle in life, some of us more than others. But we are all fortunate enough to live at a time and in a country that presents us with opportunities if we are willing to take the time to figure out where we can realistically go in life and are willing to put in the hard work to get there. Even if we have to support nine kids and a wife or husband, we don’t need to sing the blues.

Which type of dream will you invest your time and energy in? I would encourage the latter. Here’s how you can get started. The company for which serve as chaplain employs two professional “dream coaches” to help our associates identify and realize their dreams. If you don’t have someone to guide, try working through the following steps on your own.

1)Make yourself a Dream Planner Book. This can be a fancy journal you buy in a bookstore, a spiral bound notebook, or even a yellow legal pad.

2)In your planner, start brainstorming with yourself or with your spouse and/or other members of your family your dreams for the future. Be bold. You don’t have to worry about being realistic at this point. It may help you by thinking about different aspects of your life to focus on such as professional, educational, spiritual, emotional, recreational, material, health/fitness. You may think of others. Try to write down one or two dreams in each area. See if you can come up with twenty dreams. Some examples might be to own your own home, get a specific promotion at work, spend time each day doing something fun with your family, eating a more healthy diet, etc. Your dreams can be as big or as small as you want them.

3) Circle five of the twenty which energize you the most. What is most important for you to achieve? Then narrow your list down to two. These are the dreams that you are going to work on.

4) After you have identified your most important dreams, write out the steps that you will need to take to get you from where you are to where you want to be. Pretend that you are using Google Maps to find the route to your own “blue bayou.”

5) Write out a realistic timeline on when you are going to accomplish each step. Keep returning to your Dream Planner Book and check off the steps as you take them. Make yourself accountable to a trusted person whose job it is to encourage you to keep on schedule.

6) Celebrate your victories along the way and really celebrate when you reach your final goal. Then keep on dreaming. This is a lifelong process.

I encourage you to find someone to accompany you on your journey. You may be able to find a professional dream manager. If not seek out a life coach, counselor, or trusted pastor who is willing to work with you.
So, what’s your dream? At this point in my life, I’m setting sights on that blue bayou; you might have something grander in mind. Either way, let’s leave the blues singing to musicians.

Peace,
Pastor Jim

525,600

By | Blog

Pastor Jim Melvin

If you have seen the Broadway musical Rent, the number 525,600 may ring a mental bell; it’s the number of minutes in a year. The average life expectancy of an American today is 78 years, a couple of years more if you are a female and a couple of years less if you are unfortunate enough to be a male. Male or female, our minutes are numbered, 41,776,800 to be exact if you live that average 78 years (not counting leap years).

41,776,800 is a big number; but it’s not THAT big a number. It’s way less than a billion. We talk about US budget deficits in billions and trillions of dollars. And as the popular astronomer Carl Sagan used to say with great emphasis, “There are BBBillions and BBBillions of stars in the universe.” Our lives are small and of short duration on a cosmic scale. This life is not infinite. The clock is ticking my friends; our clocks are ticking.

Thinking about this may call your attention to the clock ticking in your chest or even send you into a panic attack. That’s not my intention. To the contrary, I’d just like us to consider the opportunities for living represented by that pile of minutes so that we don’t waste them. Each minute is made more precious by its relative scarcity.

There’s an economics term that I hear my friends in business throwing around all the time, opportunity cost. Simply put, opportunity cost is the value you give up doing one thing when you choose to do something else. For example, when I choose to stay in bed for an extra hour in the morning, I’m giving up the opportunity to make money at work or the opportunity to enjoy an hour taking a walk or going fishing with my child. On the job, my boss might not be so happy to know that spending time playing Candy Crush on my phone is robbing me and him/her of the opportunity to get some work done.

It’s a matter of the choices we make on a minute by minute, day by day basis that will ultimately add up to a life well spent or a life wasted. We shouldn’t be obsessed by this kind of accounting of our lives; I’m don’t want to analyze my life on a spreadsheet. But here are some do’s and don’ts to make healthy choices about how to spend your time.

1) Cut back on screen time. Here’s a statistic that I find shocking. According to a Nielson Company audience report, the average American spends 10 hours and 39 minutes per day peering at some kind of screen consuming media. Although we spend more and more times on our personal devices, television is still the main consumer of our time. Consider the opportunity cost. That’s 10 hours and 39 minutes a day we could spend interacting with our children or spouses. That’s 10 hours and 39 minutes a day we could spend at exercise and healthy recreation. That’s 10 hours and 39 minutes a day we could volunteer to our church or service organization. I might even devote a few of those minutes taking a refreshing nap. In short, turn off the tv, put away the phones and tablets, and spend some time in the real world.

2) Spend more time in prayer, devotion, meditation, and other spiritual pursuits. As opposed to almost eleven hours we spend looking at screens, the average American spends about 8 minutes per day in prayer. (That’s actually a little higher than I expected.) Studies show that people who spend significant amounts of time praying and reading the Bible are healthier and live longer. Try devoting just five minutes to prayer when you wake up in the morning and before you go to sleep at night. See how you feel. Also, maybe try to squeeze in 30 minutes reading the Bible or other devotional material.

3) Engage in meaningful conversations. It says in the Genesis creation story that it’s not good for us to be alone. Most of us would agree that there is nothing more important than our relationships. And yet, we seldom take the time to really talk to one another about important things like our feelings, our hopes and our fears. Sitting down to leisurely meals on a regular basis with the significant people in our lives encourages us to talk. And, of course, don’t bring the phone to the table and don’t watch tv. Just talk and chew.

4) Exercise. The Mayo Clinic says that 300 minutes of moderate exercise per week provides significant health benefits. They say that 150 minutes should be a minimum goal. Just going for brisk walks is good enough. If possible, walk in pleasant and peaceful surroundings. You might even try praying as you walk. Get double benefits for each minute spent in your perambulatory devotions. (No, I didn’t make up that word.)

5) Work hard. When you are on the job, or when you have important tasks to take care of, put your heart and your soul into it. When we are working hard and accomplishing something, we don’t have to worry about the opportunity costs. We are making good use of our time. After all, we have to get things done and make a living. No regrets here.

6) Chill. This is my favorite. Just spend some time doing nothing. I remember a Seinfeld episode where Elaine is sitting on an airplane with a friend. He asks, “What are you doing?” “Nothing,” she replies. “You have to be doing something,” he insists. “No, I’m just staring at the back of the seat.” “Boy, you really are doing nothing,” he finally admits. This may be the hardest one for you type-A people, really doing nothing. Once in a while, don’t worry about the opportunity costs. Just do nothing.

Well, that’s kind of a random list; but I hope you get the idea.

On a personal note, I’m almost 71. Assuming that I make it to 82 (that’s how long my dad and brother lived), I’ve got 5,781,600 minutes left. That’s 60 minutes less than when I sat down to write this. Talk about tick-tock. Here’s the way I’ve decided to game the system. I’m going to live each minute with Psalm 118:24 on my lips or at least in my heart: “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Then how can I go wrong.

A Simple Guide to Meditation

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A Simple Guide to Meditation and Relaxation
Pastor Jim Melvin

We all must deal with stress in our lives both at home and at work. Stress is a fact of life. Some stress is good. When we face a challenging situation, our bodies get amped up and ready to perform. I was watching the Packers game the other night and I could see how stressed the players felt as they came back onto the field after half-time trailing 17-0. Stress played a large part in getting the Green and Gold’s adrenaline flowing which allowed them to march up and down the field in the fourth quarter to a victory. That’s good stress. (Although I confess to being a Bears fan.)

How do you think those players felt on Monday morning after that game? In addition to the aches, pains and bruises they had a physical and emotional letdown to deal with. The body can only run on adrenaline for a limited period of time. A constant exposure to stress and adrenaline makes us sick. High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke depression, migraines and even cancer have been linked to having too much unrelieved stress.

Stress inevitably accompanies us to work. You can probably feel it in the car in the morning as you head to work, and you start to imagine what is going to be waiting for you when you arrive. You may think about a problem left over from yesterday that you have to resolve. Maybe there is the stress of the unknown when you aren’t sure what is going to be required of you. You may be stressed about your relationship with a boss or co-worker or a subordinate. This stress can be good. You’re getting amped up for your day just like Aaron Rogers coming off the sideline. But if you don’t have a way to deal with your stress and it builds and builds, it will make you sick.

I want to share with you something that has helped me deal with my own stress for years, Meditation or more specifically Mindfulness Mediation. MM is a simple technique to help you get in touch with what’s going on in your head and your heart. A simple awareness of what’s stressing you will go a long way toward healthy coping and stress relief.

While mediation is practiced in almost all religions, it is not always used for religious purposes. Meditation is being used by more and more people as a means of relaxation, healing, and simple self-awareness. There is nothing weird or New Age about it. Men, women and children of all ages and from all walks of life can benefit from taking some quiet time to bring their lives back into balance.

I’m going to describe for you the simplest form of meditation practice that is accessible to everybody. It’s something you can do anywhere anytime you can grab a few minutes without interruption. And you don’t have to be able to twist your body into a pretzel to participate. Here’s what you do:

1. Find a quiet place where you can sit without interruption for as long as you choose to meditate.
2. Sit in a chair or on a cushion in a comfortable position. Relax your arms comfortably. I like to let my hands rest on my thighs with the palms up.
3. You may sit with your eyes open or shut; most people find it less distracting with eyes closed.
4. Take a deep breath trying to fill your lungs as completely as possible. Exhale and let your shoulder relax as you return to the neutral position. Repeat once or twice.
5. Establish a normal breathing pattern turning your attention to your inbreath and outbreath. You may want to say to yourself, “breathing in – breathing out” as you breathe.
6. Allow your body to relax while you continue your rhythmic breathing.
7. As you sit, all kinds of thoughts will emerge. You may think about something important you should be doing. Your mind may go back to something unpleasant that happened yesterday. This is normal. Don’t try to push the thoughts away. Acknowledge them and let them pass through your mind. Each time a thought passes return your awareness to your breath, “breathing in – breathing out.” Do not be discouraged if your mind will not quiet. It will improve with practice.
8. I recommend starting with short periods of sitting. Five minutes is reasonable at first. Working up to about 20 minutes is preferable. You may get the point that you don’t want to stop after an hour. You can either set a timer or alarm or just end when it feels right.
9. At the end of your allotted time, repeat the deep breathing exercise you started with. Sit quietly for a few minutes before resuming normal activity.
10. You can meditate at any time, but the first thing in the morning and before going to bed at night are good times. You can also try to grab a few minutes at lunch or other free time during the day.

There you have it. Give it a try. You can also consult books or go on-line for other ways to meditate. You may want to join a group meditation program or yoga class if you don’t care for the solitude.
Relax and be well.

Rejoice!

By | Blog

My dear mother was never afraid to talk about her aches, pains, and ailments. When I would good-naturedly call attention to her complaining, she would just as good a naturedly remind me, “You’ll get old someday too.” You know what? She was right. New pains pop up in my body every day to the extent that I consider myself lucky if nothing is broke or no major organ has completely stopped functioning. Now I catch myself complaining just like she did. Yikes — it’s true. We do become our parents.

At this very moment, I am sitting comfortably in front of my laptop on my porch listening to the soothing gurgling of the fountain on the patio. Since nothing particularly hurts right now, I started to think that I maybe should stop to consider some of the many good things about my life. Take the sound of that fountain for example. Or Ernie the pug stretched out in his favorite patch of sunshine splashed on the carpet. (Even though I know he’s going to be bugging me to feed him soon.) And those buttery scrambled eggs I had for breakfast weren’t bad either. Simple things. Good things.

We can forget that it feels better to rejoice in the good things in our lives than to complain about the bad. One of the most simple and upbeat passages in the Bible says, “Rejoice, in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” Paul, the writer of that passage, felt so strongly about rejoicing that he needed to repeat himself. “Rejoice; AGAIN I say, rejoice.” This is a religious passage, but most of all it’s just good advice. With rejoicing comes a wonderful side benefit, Peace.

Rejoicing is the opposite of complaining. When we complain we turn our attention to the negative things affecting us and wallow in them. Rejoicing requires the opposite, turning our attention to the good things around us. This seems so simple and so natural that it’s a wonder that we don’t focus on the good things more often. Maybe it will help if we think about the places where we find good things. Maybe you’ll want to make a list.

The first place to look for “rejoice-able” things is in our relationships. Like our aches and pains, we can be consumed with what is wrong with our relationships like our marriages and friendships. Instead, take some time looking for and thinking about the positive relationships in your life or even the good things during troubled ones. Who are the people in your family who really light up your world? Rejoice in them. Many of us spend a good share of our lives with people at work. Who’s the person at work who lifts you up when you’re down? Rejoice in him or her. My friend is overly critical of people, yet he’s always there to help. I can rejoice in that.

Speaking of work, that’s another place to look for the good. By work I mean the thing that you do that gives meaning and direction to your life as well as producing your livelihood. You can rejoice in swinging a hammer and producing something of value. If you enjoy detail, you can rejoice in creating a spreadsheet or talking to customers on the phone. If your main job is parenting just now, I know you will find a lot to rejoice about in your children. I have to admit, however, that rejoicing in changing diapers might be a stretch.

I know that we’re not supposed to focus on the material stuff in our lives, but there is nothing wrong with enjoying and rejoicing in the things we have worked for. If you own a home, take a little tour of your yard. Rejoice in those flowers you planted or the fence that you painted. I have a friend who owns several vintage sports cars and he truly rejoices in working on them and racing them. You can even rejoice when you put on that new dress that fits just right and that people compliment.

Let’s circle back around to health. If you can go out and run a marathon, that’s something to rejoice. For some, walking around the block may be a cause for celebration. My mom lived until she was ninety-four. Don’t tell me she didn’t have something to rejoice about in the area of health. Our family rejoices that she lived and full life and died a peaceful death with us at her side. There are things to rejoice in all of life’s stages.

It would be wrong not to acknowledge those people who do have a lot of pain in their lives. It’s hard to rejoice in going through a divorce. It’s hard to rejoice when you’re out of work living paycheck to paycheck. I have several people in my life right now who are going through terrible physical suffering with cancer or otherwise failing bodies. Some have lost spouses. It’s hard to rejoice in that. But maybe those are the times in life when it is most important to look for the good and the positive. I find that when we do they are multiplied. While we at times have every right to complain, those are the times when we can most benefit in finding reasons to rejoice.

It’s not only important to look for the good in our own lives, we can help those around us do the same. I think that I accomplished that with my mother when I joked her out of her pity parties. Help your friends and family look for reasons to celebrate. Maybe even give them something to celebrate through kindness and caring.

Well, I could go on, but Ernie is giving me the stink-eye so that I’ll feed him. You should see him rejoice when I put his food down in front of him.

Peace!

Pastor Jim Melvin